Reflections on Poetry of the Present

 In Reflections

I’ve been privileged by being invited to offer quarterly poetry offerings through Eremos this year.  Our theme, Poetry of the Present echoes and helps to unpack the theme for Eremos throughout 2021, Unfolding: Being Present to Life. Because the poetry gatherings are limited to twelve participants, and because I found our time together to be so fruitful, I wanted to share with the larger community a taste of these fruits.

Meister Eckhardt offers this powerful suggestion about the power of images…

When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out in front of her and enters into her own image.

We began, as I invite you to, by allowing an image of unfolding to reveal itself.

John O’Donohue left us with this beautiful image he offered himself in his poem, Fluent:

I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

What is an image of unfolding that supports your desire for Presence? What is a quality you associate with that image that appeals to you?

 

What emerged in our group could be translated into a poem! Fluid as a fountain, solid as a small bud, ephemeral as light, morning, day, fragrant as flowers…images as varied as ourselves that help us embody this notion of unfolding.  Notable as well were the gestures that unconsciously arose to echo the expansiveness and inclusiveness of the images, and the opening or unfolding of ourselves to embrace these personal images.

Inspired by the poem My Four Year-Old Poetry Teacher, we took a journey back in time to the childhood sense of noticing and unabashed descriptions that pour forth…

 

…blunt and new
like the colour of the girl’s hair
in your drawing
that is neither brown nor blonde
and you tell me
it is like a paper bag
which of course it is

 

and how you describe
grandpa’s face
as mushy
and that a frog
would feel like a bird
if you held it tight
in your hand…

 

Do you remember a time when things seemed more obvious?  Can you return to that open sense of noticing, those sensual descriptions from your experience that bring you wholeheartedly into the present?

As we live through this Easter season, and especially following our deep freeze, we are likely noticing, more than ever, what has come through, survived, is slowly resurrecting.  Perhaps this is most evident in the landscape- the new leaves unfurling, a green stem pushing through the weight of dead brown leaves.  Neighbors re-sculpting the agaves.  What might this suggest to us as we approach post-pandemic times?

Derek Mahon offered us a vision in his uncharacteristically hopeful poem, Everything is Going to Be All Right, which has turned out to be one of the most sought after poems throughout the pandemic.

Everything Is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

~ Derek Mahon ~

Is there a word from this poem (unbidden, bright, flows), or a line, that speaks to you now?  That catches your heart?  Begin there, and allow words to flow through you onto a page… While a new season beckons, it is good to pause and give voice to what has passed through you in this most unprecedented of times.  As John Fox, Founder of the Institute for Poetic Medicine notes:

When we listen to or read poetry, when we respond to or write it, there is a chance to slow down and notice our lives. We reflect on what’s written on the page in order to integrate what’s living in the heart. 

~ John Fox

May your heart remain watchful to the unfolding present and your soul stirred to pen new words!

Note: There are only two spaces left in Cathey Capers’ June 8th session of Poetry of the Present.
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